As Hedges observes, our way of life is killing us. Faced with this reality, a maturing imagination must respond. As Campbell and Moyers observed in The Power of Myth, the belief systems that support it are dead.[i] As these dead worldviews seem to continue to stir, I would call them undead and go dig up connections between no-longer-vital images of society and the upwelling of fascination with zombie and vampire myths, as well as the resurrection of old comic book situations as new cinema . Even political systems once configured to build democratic polity seem to be leaning toward the more exploitative and parasitic. Tired beliefs trotted out for cynical political advantage have run their course and now shuffle on, undead, beside elephantine institutional corpses, beaten to death with the jawbone of an ass and reeking with rot. No measure of patriotic perfume and election-year cosmetics will improve a systemic dearth of principled leadership. The resulting literal and metaphorical cancer of environmental poisoning and alleged economic collapse continues to be suffered by bodies both physical and politic. Ehrenreich again:
Exhortations to think positively—to see the glass half full, even when it lies shattered on the floor—are not restricted to the pink ribbon culture. A few years after my treatment, I ventured out into another realm of personal calamity—the world of laid-off white-collar workers. At the networking groups, boot camps and motivational sessions available to the unemployed, I found unanimous advice to abjure anger and “negativity” in favour of an upbeat, even grateful approach to one's immediate crisis. People who had been laid off from their jobs and were spiraling down toward poverty were told to see their condition as an “opportunity” to be embraced. Here, too, the promised outcome was a kind of “cure”: by being positive, a person might not only feel better during his or her job search, but actually bring it to a faster, happier conclusion. [ii]
The god of positivity that dogs Ehrenreich, and obscures negativity through society as a whole, could use a dose of death on the cross or the hanging endured by Odin or Innana. As has been suggested, it is not belief itself that needs to die but metaphorical idolatry—mistaking neatly packaged god-images for Divinity—preferring the singular (monotheistic), manageable (given the correct scripture, tribe, and social program), and either abstract (Out There) or personal (In Here) over the mysteries of complex systems with epic timeframes and species-level consequences.
Evolution’s problem relates to belief in science, rather than the practice of science, and is again zombie-like, in so far as they are portrayed as being like sheep, lacking individual volition. Belief in science forwards the idea that data must be given (rather than excavated by hand) first, followed by the feeling that one holds the truth at last. This idea seems to preclude action; we must wait for permission to step out of the way of the oncoming train of mass violence and ecocide. Why not demand a new social agreement; refrain from chewing rhetorically on each other’s heads and forge an ongoing, imagination-based relationship with ignorance due to complexity? Perhaps a more depressing, blue ethic is required, keeping the certainties of death before one daily.
[i] J. Campbell and B.D. Moyers, The Power of Myth (New York: Doubleday, 1988). Pages 39-41.
[ii] Ehrenreich, Barbara. “Smile! You’ve Got Cancer.” The Guardian, January 2, 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jan/02/cancer-positive-thinking-barbara-ehrenreich. Also see the video RSA Animate - Smile or Die, 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5um8QWWRvo&feature=youtube_gdata_player.